“So, is she (nodding in my daughter’s direction), you know, (lowers voice) normal?”
I get this question all the time. As if my son is not normal. As if he’s some sort of mentally challenged freak of nature. And I have to choke back the words. The things that I’m really saying in my head, like “No you fucker, she’s our child, what do YOU think?” Or “Like there’s such a thing as normal? ARE YOU NORMAL?”
Instead, I hold my tongue and say “She’s typically developing, yes” Because there is no normal. My son is quirky, yes. He’s a little different developmentally. Some of the things that come naturally to us, he has to be taught. We have to explain them to him. Some of his milestones that he should have hit earlier on, he’s hitting at a later age, but milestones that other kids his age are just hitting now, he hit eons ago. He’s doing things in his own order. Sure, it’s not typical, but it’s not abnormal. Why? BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EXIST.
And it’s not the questions that people ask, so much as the people that don’t think before asking.
I’m finding that developmental delays, or Autism Spectrum Disorders, much like infertility, breeds ignorance. There’s a stigma attached to it. With so many women who suffer from infertility, you would think we would take the time to become more educated on the topic, because chances are, a close relative or friend is going through it.
The same goes with ASD’s. Autism affects 1 in 110 children. That’s up from 1 in 150 just 4 years ago. That’s mind numbing. That means out of everyone you know, there are at least 2-3 kids that have some sort of spectrum disorder, or sensory disorder (which can mask itself as Autism a lot of times), yet people sound surprised when they hear about it. People automatically picture Rain Man, or someone who is severely Autistic. I know I thought the same thing when I thought of Autism. When our pediatrician voiced her concern about the Mini showing red flags for Autism, I educated myself. I had to. I had to know what we were up against.
And on the opposite side, because people think of Autism as this nonverbal, stimming person, who has unpredictable behavior, they are often surprised when I say, “My son is Autistic.” They look at me like, “you’re delusional, lady.” And I have to explain to them that it’s a wide bucket of people out there, and that just like no two typical people are alike, no two Autistic people are alike, either.
And I can’t help but think, that for some reason, I did something in a past life that warranted me needing to learn some sort of patience in this one. First infertility, and then we beat the odds and are given a child that has developmental differences. Do not mistake that for me feeling sorry for myself, because I don’t. And I really mean that. Maybe I’m supposed to be a crusader, or maybe I’m just supposed to not only educate myself on bigger things in this life, but also help to educate others. Maybe, in some small way, this is what my life’s meaning is. I don’t know. I’d like to think I’m part of a bigger plan, without making myself sound conceited. I know I helped a lot of people understand infertility. I’d like to erase the stigma that people have when it comes to Autism. I’d like to help people not only learn, but find humor. Because if you can’t learn to laugh, the road ahead will be a lot tougher.
And, while I have learned a lot, I’m still learning. And laughing.